STYLIST – Daisy Ridley is talking about her favourite washing powder.

“It has got to be Fairy Non-Bio, for sensitive skin. A little touch of fabric conditioner,” she tells me, happily. “God, I love washing my clothes.” Not the conversation I imagined as I flew to LA to hang out with the protagonist of the biggest movie franchise in the galaxy ahead of the anticipated arrival of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But I’m happy to be immersed in it. The conversation sums up the actress: a normal 25-year-old woman thrust into an extraordinary world. A woman who’s a bit jittery from drinking strong coffee, she confesses.

The Last Jedi is steeped in secrecy. All Ridley can do is reassure me that “the question everyone is asking will be answered” (she is referring to the parentage of Rey, her Star Wars character). But what we do know is this: Ridley will be front and centre again.

The Force Awakens (2015) saw Rey, an orphan and scavenger on a desert planet, discover the Force and fight the First Order. The Last Jedi sees the young warrior develop her Jedi powers, with guidance from Luke Skywalker, and continue to seek her place in the world.

Rey was – is – important because she is not defined by the men around her. She is a talented pilot and combatant. She has been granted proper protagonist status; not just a cipher for plot development. Her costume is one she can move in. She is a survivor. There was an outcry – and a hashtag, #wheresrey – last year over the lack of female characters in the just-released Star Wars merchandise, which has since been addressed – but it is a sign that progress can be slow. Coincidentally, it’s the first time Ridley has seen the Rey mug we took to LA for our shoot.

Continue Reading

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – When Brooklynn Prince, the seven-year-old star of The Florida Project, arrived for a SAG Q&A last week at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinemas, which I moderated, she expected just another run-of-the-mill interview like the many others she’s done since that film’s premiere at Cannes back in May.

But Prince — who was wearing her favorite shirt, which is emblazoned with the first names of her cinematic heroes Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning, Emma Stone and Daisy Ridley — was in for a surprise. A few moments into the conversation, out came Ridley — many in the audience gasped and Prince’s mouth was agape in shock — who had flown in from London to surprise the younger actress.

“I’m very, very happy,” Prince said after getting a hug from Ridley. “You just made my day!” Ridley, whose new film Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres tonight, told her, “I saw the film last week and I thought it was amazing and that you’re amazing.”

Ridley proceeded to question Orlando-native Prince about her audition for the role as Moonee in The Florida Project (“They had two rounds that I wasn’t invited to”); collaborating on it with their mutual friend Willem Dafoe (“He played thumb-war with me, he Facetimed with me, he treated us equal… he’s just the most wonderful man you could work with”); having to cuss in the opening scene (“I’ve always wanted to say those words”); and how she prepared for her biggest emotional scene (“It was hard because I didn’t play with my friends — even though I really wanted to play, I still had to be focused”).

Then, Ridley asked Prince what she would like to do next. “I would like to be Little Rey in Star Wars,” she volunteered, as Ridley broke into a smile and replied, “Great idea!” Prince then asked, “Do you know that Star Wars has been around since when there were dinosaurs? It was in a galaxy far, far away.” Ridley replied, “Yeah, I heard that!” Prince continued, “Where Jedis were living and every Ewok roamed the Earth.” “I heard that, too!” Prince added, “Do you know that you are so, so brave to take on a big movie role? Because Star Wars has been around forever — and when I say forever, I mean forever!”

THE NEW YORK TIMES – While they tell tales of Death Stars and daddy issues, the “Star Wars” movies are also stories about duality: how goodness and evil can coexist — on the same planet or inside the same person — and what happens when they collide on an intergalactic scale.

These themes are revisited once again in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the eighth episode in the science-fiction saga that George Lucas started in 1977. “The Last Jedi,” which opens on Dec. 15, is the first to be written and directed by Rian Johnson (“Brick,” “Looper”). It follows the resounding success of “The Force Awakens,” directed by J. J. Abrams in 2015, about two young heroes, a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and a renegade stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega), caught up in the search for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

The new film continues where “The Force Awakens” left off, as Rey and Luke are about to meet on the planet Ahch-To, and it promises a further exploration of their relationship to the sullen evildoer Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his nefarious master, Snoke (Andy Serkis). It also features the final performance in the series from Carrie Fisher, who played Leia and who died last December.

At a running time of some two and a half hours, “The Last Jedi” continues the adventures of Finn and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and their adversaries Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). Somehow it finds room for the new characters Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), and a wide-eyed alien species called porgs.

Continue Reading